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Market News

 October 10, 2007
Consumers' Green Fatigue Due to Lack of Awareness, Economic Worries: Survey

 Knoxville, USA -- The economy may be having its way with the burgeoning green economy: as consumers' fears about slowdowns in the housing and other sectors increase, their willingness to pay a perceived premium for environmentally friendly or energy efficient products is on the decline.

That's the message from Energy Pulse 2007, the third annual national consumer market study conducted by the Shelton Group, which were released yesterday. For instance, respondents to the survey were over 16 percent less likely to buy an energy efficient home product this year than they said they were last year.

Although much of the drawdown can be blamed on fallout from the sub-prime mortgage loan scandal, Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton said that economic concerns are only half the equation.

"In the past few years, consumers have been bombarded by the marketing messages of companies jumping on the green-friendly bandwagon," Shelton said. "People are becoming much more inquiring about the bill of green goods being sold to them -- not only in terms of 'is it as green as what they say it is?' but also 'does it matter enough to me to pay extra?'"

"Fewer consumers seem willing to put the up-front cash into a green or energy-efficient purchase despite how much it may save them in the long-run or how it might assuage their guilt about the environment," Shelton added. "Marketers should take notice with respect to the content and credibility of their messages. Prices matter, and consumers may be growing weary of companies that appear to tout 'green' merely as a marketing ploy."

For eight different kinds of energy efficient home products, this year's Energy Pulse survey found that consumers are on average 16 percent less likely to go green, with 11 percent saying they're less likely to buy CFL or halogen light bulbs, 15 percent less likely to buy special insulation, and 19 percent saying they're less likely to buy an Energy Star certified home appliance.

The survey wasn't entirely gloom-and-doom for the green economy: consumer interest in renewable energy for their homes is at an all-time high. Over 54 percent of respondents said they were likely or very likely to participate in a green power program through their utility, up from 44 percent last year.

But despite the growth in consumer interest in these programs, the survey found that actual participation in green energy programs is at a standstill: over the last three years, the number of consumers saying they already participate in these programs has actually dropped slightly, from 3.4 percent in 2005 to 3.2 percent this year. Sheldon chalked this up to poor promotion and marketing from utility companies.

"Utilities that fail to initiate and sustain strong, consistent marketing support of green power should expect continued low response levels due to the extra effort required of consumers to participate in most programs," Shelton said. "In addition, it's not just the existence of marketing programs that's important -- it's the targeting of these programs. Not everyone is a good prospect for green power. Utilities should target customers who both have the means and the interest to participate. A mass-market approach isn't appropriate."

More information about the Energy Pulse survey is available at EnergyPulse.org.